Can I assume that Theravada monks are to eat any kinds of food given to them during alms round?

What if they are given food with seafood or any meat? Is it considered breaking the 1st precept? Cos in order to have the seafood, somebody has to do the dirty job of catching them then make them dishes, same applies to meat.


This article by Ven. Dhammavuddho Thero discusses this topic. But the comments are not from him.

Majjhima Nikaya 55: After paying homage, he said: “Venerable sir, I have heard this: ‘They slaughter living beings for the monk Gotama (i.e. the Buddha); the monk Gotama knowingly eats meat prepared for him from animals killed for his sake’….”; and asked if this was true. The Buddha denied this, adding “Jivaka, I say that there are three instances in which meat should not be eaten: when it is seen, heard, or suspected (that the living being has been specifically slaughtered for oneself) … I say that there are three instances in which meat may be eaten: when it is not seen, heard, or suspected (that the living being has been specifically slaughtered for oneself)….”

This means that meat (already dead) that was purchased from the supermarket does not break the first precept. But if you see, select the animal to be killed or if somebody purposely killed a particular animal for you, then it breaks the first precept.

This is discussed in this question.

  • 1
    Actually it breaks the 1st precept only if you kill or instruct someone to kill. Laypeople are allowed to eat meat regardless of if they saw, heard or suspect that the animal had been killed for them. The rule only applies to monks. Mar 30 '15 at 14:52
  • Thank you for the info. I thought the rule applied to everyone.
    – ruben2020
    Mar 31 '15 at 5:27
  • That is not right, @SankhaKulathantille , Ruben , in regard of kamma since it has 3 doors, by action, verbal (incl. gestures and other ways of communication) and by thoughts. Confirming, approving, so to speak welcome by thoughts is as well an unskilful deed and such does not matter if wearing robes or householder dress. So also a layperson should think about taking of what has been killed form him/her. Mental deeds do of course not formaly break a precept according to usual commentaries. It's noteworthy that the Buddha did never went into details for lay people but felt sometimes urged else
    – user11235
    May 18 '17 at 14:57
  • @SamanaJohann A layman needn't confirm, approve or welcome killing to buy meat :) May 19 '17 at 23:05
  • Not at all does "need" fit here, but mostly it would be so. @SankhaKulathantille . As long as one does not understand mind, it's pointless to talk and just this or that stand/view would be taken on. When thinking on how may confirming of killing for other things are done by this smart "good people" of today, even one eats only meet, does not match those "sunday good people" totally confused. (This post has caused kills)
    – user11235
    May 19 '17 at 23:25

There is a bit of interpretation going on with this.

Buying meat at the supermarket does count as commanding someone to kill because the force of one's money compels the wheel that is the meat industry.

If the meat was purchased, killed, or gotten specifically due to one's preference... it does break the heart of that precept.

Even if in one's almsrounds, the favorite house one goes to knows that one really likes that spicy meat (hence the owner went to supermarket and purchased that type). Hence it is important for such monks to practice nonequanimity or even indicate preference for that which is less pleasant but beneficial--a Theravadin exercise.

It seems this view broadens things too much. But there are still many instances where "when it is not seen, heard, or suspected (that the living being has been specifically slaughtered for oneself)….":

  • Being invited somewhere (wedding, dinner, etc.) and the items are pre-picked without one's meat-eating influence
  • Getting specific food at almsround that one did not influence the choice of towards meat-eating (ok to influence towards vegetarianism, however)
  • etc.
  • 1
    You might be clearer about "does count ... because the force of one's money" -- I think, I gather, that is maybe Mahayana doctrine but is not Theravada doctrine?
    – ChrisW
    Feb 27 '18 at 14:56
  • yes, one can pretend, but cannot decamp Feb 27 '18 at 15:47

In Theravada tradition, the Buddhist monk or nun must eat only what is offered through alms, not what he or she desires to eat. Therefore if meat is offered, so long as the animal was not killed specifically to feed the monk/nun, and the monk/nun did not witness in some way the killing of the animal, then they are not only allowed, but encouraged to consume the flesh in order to show compassion for the person(s) providing them the meal and express gratitude for their generosity.

This instruction was given by Buddha specifically to the monastic community, not to lay people. Given that historically, the lay people very often lived extremely humble lives and had to make do with whatever they had, meat eating is not specifically proscribed for lay people. This is, in fact, one reason why a monk eating meat provided by a lay person is considered an act of compassion, as it is also a way for the lay person to make good karma. In other words, if the lay person must through necessity kill and eat an animal to survive, this is still good karma through the act of sharing what little they have with the monk who is required by Buddha to live off the generosity of the lay person.

Buying animal products at the market is in effect a scavenging act, not a hunting or butchering act, as the animals would have been slaughtered regardless of any intention on the part of the lay person. When one considers that in agriculture, many creatures' lives are taken (earthworms, field mice, insects, etc.) in order for crops to grow, flourish, and be harvested, the idea that vegetarianism invariably circumvents violence toward animals, or that not buying meat prevents the taking of life, rings hollow. Thus, purchasing the meat of an animal that has been killed with no intention on one's own part to kill the animal is no worse than purchasing crops that caused the death of thousands of small creatures.

This is not specifically to encourage meat eating, mind you. It is simply to demonstrate that the lay person need not have spiritual concerns regarding the purchasing and consumption of meat. What is important is that right actions be in accordance with right intentions.


Lord Buddha's dharma is not only for the monks. It's for lay follower too. Reflect wise. Proxy killing is not consider as a killing beings despite the name contradicted. Example like cleaning a area for development. There might be some animals died in the process. Even walking on road too. We can't fly all time or even creat an earth like how Maha Monggalana Thero could. Our purpose is not to kill the animals with intention to kill. Killing beings is applicable to a being who/which has consciousness of life ( A state of being aware as alive). Killing is absolute if intended,planned and executed.Either by verbal or action. Affirming with thoughts is not consider breaking the precept but with such thoughts one is delighted in killing. Therefore for such a person killing is not a matter as the tendency to kill is there. Lord Buddha's dharma is the dharma of mind. Mind is the cause. Therefore be wise.


I was at a retreat hosted at a Theravada monastery.

I learn that the Venerable Mangala (Theravada Myanmar) and my teacher (a bhikku) when I was there do Not eat meat at all.

On youtube, I have seen animals crying and even begging (with 4 limbs on the ground) when they know they are being slaughtered.

The Buddha spoke of compassion and also quelling arrogance. Simply quelling arrogance or bringing forth great compassion is a most difficult task to do.

When one is a mendicant (which really helps in quelling arrogance), it is most difficult to choose and pick your food.

The Buddha frequently of being kind and compassionate. He also spoke of opposites, sometimes praising isolation (not the best choice of word), sometimes praising friendship (I recall a quote where he says that having a kalamitra is a big part of cultivation).

And the triple jewel is Buddha, Dharma, Sangha and not Buddha, Sangha Dharma. After reading the Dharma, I feel a strong sense to be a plant based consumer.

Ananda, I permit the bhikshus to eat five kinds of pure meat. This meat is actually a transformation brought into being by my spiritual powers. It basically has no life-force. You brahmans live in a climate so hot and humid, and on such sandy and rocky land, that vegetables will not grow; therefore, I have had to assist you with spiritual powers and compassion. Because of the magnitude of this kindness and compassion, what you ea that tastes like meat is merely said to be meat; in fact, however, it is not. After my extinction, how can those who eat the flesh of living beings be called the disciples of Shakya?

Above text comes from a Mahayana Sutra named the Surangama Sutra http://www.cttbusa.org/shurangama6/shurangama6_2.asp where the Buddha elaborates on the 5 kinds of pure meat.

Luang Por Sumedho (Theravada) and Venerable Master Hsuan Hua (Mahayana) are leaders in their Buddhist lineage. They did not elaborate on this issues but they claim to be dharma brothers in past lifes. The above text comes from VM Hsuan Hua's branch website.

I brought in a lot more extraneous info, but I feel a need to clarify. Please forgive me if I said more than I need to.

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